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03/03/2017

Comments

Kinsey_Grant

In reading “Back to the Future,” it is interesting to consider our treatment of the planet as a geological experiment, but that’s just what it is. I think to myself that this is life – there is no second chance and we’re nearing the time in human history when we get no more chances at trying another control in the experiment. But what troubled me most from this piece is not that we are treating our earth as a science experiment without knowledge of what might come, but rather the knowledge that we’re missing something in this experiment. As Schrag said, there are still not palm trees in Wyoming. So what are we missing? Are we forgetting one important factor that could be the difference between life and death for the human race? This is clearly a bit hyperbolic at this point, but as a Floridian, I worry my state might be focusing too much on adaptation that mitigation. It’s as if we’re modeling a market with asymmetric information – a negative externality that will leave the burden of cost on someone. Who will bear it? And how will the externality be internalized? “The Power Problem” might suggest that nuclear power could be the answer. But when it comes to nuclear power, it’s as if we have all of the variables listed. Accidents, waste storage, terrorism – all the things that can go wrong come to the forefront. It’s interesting to compare the lack of variables in general climate change that Schrag laments with the apparent litany of reasons we can’t steer away from carbon-laden power sources. The “Stabilization Wedges” paper presents a more holistic picture, but even the solutions it suggests are “not exhaustive” and rely on dramatic scaling up. The gist of these papers appears to be suggestive of fixes to the problems, but almost fatalistic in the proposition of achieving the goals to reduce carbon emissions and climate change over the next few decades. There are things we can do, but a great deal of the damage is done.

Chantal Iosso

It was interesting to see in multiple of these articles that coal would likely replace natural gas and oil. I assume this is because natural gas and oil are more scarce and the prices of them will become much higher. However, we just read an article about how the actual cost of coal is multiple times higher than the sticker price, due to impacts on health, the environment, and the like. If these costs were indicated by the price of coal, I wonder if the replacement of coal for natural gas and oil would still occur, or if it would occur at a much later point. I also wonder if implementation of a carbon tax would stall or prevent the replacement, since coal has significantly more carbon emissions per energy produced than natural gas/oil. Is coal the only manner to meet future energy needs?

nicholas george

Back to the Future is an eye opening piece. I had absolutely no idea how severe the carbon situation is currently. The fact that we are approaching levels not historically seen since palm trees were in Wyoming is truly astonishing. Although, perhaps the scariest fact is that this is a global issue that cannot be solved through the actions of one, two, or even three countries alone; this issue must be solved together, as one world. This is a terrifying example of a tragedy of the commons except that there is no true global government that can force some sort of command and control or economic incentives to address the free riding issue. One would think the "credible threat" of reaching such unprecedented levels of CO2 and the tragic consequences that come with those levels would be enough of a threat to force everyone to act in the best interest of the group. Unfortunately, some people amazingly fail to see global warming as real--making the credible threat no longer an issue--or, a much better argument, see current equity as greater than generational equity since lesser developed countries had virtually little impact on creating this problem.

It would have been very interesting to hear what John Mutter thinks now, because he presented scenarios in 2004 on the assumption that fossil fuels would persist, or be replaced by coal. Thankfully, it seems as though renewable energy, specifically wind energy, is replacing fossil fuels and in most parts of the world is just as cost effective and even cost-saving. So, I wonder if his outlook would be more optimistic now.

Liam Curtin

After reading the Fueling Our Future piece in Harvard Magazine, it was interesting to see the reasoning why nuclear energy is still so under-utilized despite it being a viable alternative to coal. It seems that the problem with nuclear energy is largely a political problem involving national security and public fears. About 1/6th of the world's energy coming from nuclear reactors, so to phase out coal from the energy equation, thousands more nuclear reactors would have to be built, which frightens both political leaders and private citizens. More reactors means more radioactive material is available, which could provide easier access to non-state actors who would be interested in a nuclear weapon. More reactors also means higher chances of accidents, such as Chernobyl and Fukushima, which frightens the public more than tons of C02 coming out of a smokestack. In essence, what is stopping us from slowing down the rate of global climate change are strictly political problems rather than a lack of resources or inadequate technologies.

Michael Robinson

In the first article by Dan Schrag, he talks about the impacts of climate change and the equity of those impacts. Although he doesn’t explicitly state this, he seems to think that people do not recognize the full costs of the potential impacts of climate change. I think he tacitly advocates for a full cost accounting approach that recognizes the many indirect costs of global climate change. For example, rising sea levels affect not only those directly impacted by having to move. There are other indirect costs such as the cost of the political and social instability that results from the migration of environmental refugees. It seems to me that even accounting for the indirect costs still may not give us of a full cost accounting of climate change effects because they are simply too global, too large in scope to be able to predict and measure the impacts. I think that it is also clear that the impacts of climate change vary depending on the pre-existing social structure of the area affected. Poor areas are hit harder because they have less resources to protect themselves from the impacts and therefore they are also not able to recover as quickly, if at all, after they are affected.

Sal Diaz

In Daniel Schrag's speech, Back to the Future, he comments at length about the potential positive effects of moving towards carbon sequestration or renewable forms of energy. The line that really popped out to me in this section was when he said "even getting rid of all SUVs, doubling our transportation efficiency in the U.S., makes almost no difference at all." To me, that's shocking. I know that carbon emissions are an extremely large scale problem, but to characterize the doubling in transportation efficiency of a large industrialized nation like the U.S. as doing almost nothing was shocking. I hope that we can look at some of the slides he used (or something similar) in this presentation in class because I would like to compare the impression that gave me from reading it to actually seeing it.

Additionally, reading this piece truly gave me a better understanding of some of the statements made in class. The one that sticks out most to me was the fact that we basically have to live with whatever decisions China and India make in terms of their energy policy. Maybe I should have taken that statement more literally, but I had assumed it was a bit of an exaggeration. Now, reading just how small of a portion we contribute to, I have a greater appreciation for that sentiment.

Unfortunately, I think many people may read this pessimistically asserting if we have such little influence then why do anything. While I believe that is a somewhat-reasonable gut reaction, I do not think it is the correct reading of this piece. I believe that a correct way, maybe not the only correct way, to read this piece is to think about how our sacrifice is comparatively low. Because we have a relatively small impact on the overall carbon emissions, it also means our costs are low compared to those by larger polluters and those who bear the brunt of the damage we are doing.

Alana Babington

While reading the three articles, I had similar opinions to Chantal. I found it interesting to read how these authors mention coal replacing natural gas and oils with the knowledge of the last article of the coal piece in my mind. My initial thought was almost bewilderment at the notion of asymmetrical information taking form right in front of my eyes in the science world. What I mean by asymmetrical information in this scenario is three things. First, the lack of scientists and authors taking into account others findings, i.e. the misalignment of the use of coal and natural gas/oil in various scientific papers. Second, the acknowledgment of the lack of knowledge in current “geological experiments,” i.e. how far outside the bounds of human experience we are going to push our planet with the knowledge that we (as a human race) are missing something. Third, the public’s misperception of emissions and CCS. I think it is crucial to recognize that the public’s knowledge may influence the next steps taken. The more people know and start to fully understand the concept of emissions, especially in relation to climate change, the more the subject of CCS will be brought into public policy light.

Paul Callahan

The article in Harvard Magazine called Fueling our Future brings to light some important facts regarding nuclear energy. It does sound like a very safe and efficient alternative to coal but there are some factors that prove otherwise. In order to use nuclear energy on a large enough scale that would help the environment, we would need to build thousands more plants. Thousands of more plants creates waste problems, the potential for another disaster like Chernobyl, and lastly adds thousands more nuclear reactors to the world which gives terrorists easier access to nuclear material. These problems makes the publics receptiveness to nuclear energy less positive. In sum, nuclear energy may be a great alternative to coal but the public and world may not be ready to accept it. The global climate change issue can be slowed but it is up to the people to accept the consequences necessary to enact the change.

Phillip Harmon

I am curious to know more about how carbon sequestration in the ocean would work. From the readings, it is not entirely clear to me whether the carbon is pumped directly into the water at deep sea levels, or if we would drill into the ocean floor and pump it into the sediments. In one of the pieces the authors mention that the carbon would be released at a rate which would not harm marine life. How do we know this? From my understanding the deep sea is one of the places on earth which we know the least about. I understand that this likely is not the bottom reaches of the ocean we are talking about, but it also seems likely that not too much of this carbon we would be pumping back in originated from the ocean. In high quantities why can we be sure that the carbon will have no ill effects. Even if we are burying it under sediments, if leaks are a concern on land when we attempt to sequester carbon wouldn't they be more prevalent in an environment where we have less ability to monitor and control?

On an unrelated note I found repeated mention of the warm earth with reptiles in arctic conditions of ages path a funny image. I had never given thought to the fact that at some point however many large number of years ago the earth was actually as warm as we fear it will become. Palm trees provide a much friendlier image than the dystopian smog-filled machine-run world which I has always pictured as our future.

Monette Carli

An interesting scenario that Schrag mentioned in his “Back to the Future” talk involved eliminating all polluting vehicles in the US. He also mentioned that this probably isn’t likely to happen. When I think about climate change initiatives, I’ve often wondered why this couldn’t become a reality. While I am not extremely knowledgeable about cars, it seems that some of the barriers to this would be the current infrastructure of gas stations, which lack charging stations for electric vehicles, the number of gas-run cars currently on the road and being produced, and pushback from consumers and producers. Despite these obstacles, I think the switch is entirely possible. As we discussed in class on Tuesday, the elimination of CFCs was conducted through a phase-out process. I would argue a similar strategy could be taken with cars to gradually transition over to electric vehicles. Going off this logic, it seems that Schrag’s statement about the unlikeliness of a transition to cleaner vehicles is very negative and dismissive. Later on, during the Q&A he addresses the idea that it may take a catastrophe to push the government with enough pubic pressure to actually take action. In a way, his negative outlook on transitioning to clean energy vehicles contributes to the insufficient amount of pressure from the public. If people don’t expect a change to happen, there will never be enough pressure to make it really go through.

JohnKeithGreen

After reading "Fueling our Future" I was left with an odd feeling of optimism and uncertainty. The idea that we could reach a sustainable level of CO2 emissions by sequestering it through man made means sounds amazing at first, both in an environmental and logistical light . But as Shaw goes on to explain that our sequestration mainly involves burying or placing the CO2 we create and capture through newer more updated ways of burning coal in underground reservoirs or under sediment in the sea concerns me. Despite him saying the solution is scientifically sound and wouldn't have a large impact on the ecology of the sea I feel deep down that there has to be a problem or issue that will arise that we are overlooking. This solution sounds too good to be true even if its just a plan that could help slowdown the effects of global warming. I know he talks about how this would only get us to a moderate level of PPM in the atmosphere and would still cost a moderate amount (%1 of GDP) but I feel like we would enter a moral hazard situation to where we would have an extreme incentive to sequester almost all of carbon into the sea instead of investing more money into new forms of energy that are scaleable and have very little impact on the environment.

AJ Witherell

I found the “Fueling Our Future” from the Harvard Magazine to be the most interesting reading, particularly because of the latter portion of the article. The first half of the article was mostly facts and information that I had a fair amount of knowledge of previously. However, the second half, especially the sea-bed storage solution, was very interesting to me as I had little understanding of the process beforehand. Based on the information presented in this reading alone, I would say that it seems to be a fairly acceptable idea for confronting our CO2 emissions problems.

I think that this article does a great job presenting enough evidence and information to convey the main idea, but I think more information is required to effectively determine the probability of this idea as an effective solution. In order for this method to be accepted, a few things must be established: it must be a cost-effective solution, the science must be sure about safety of sequestering emissions in the ocean, the environmental impacts should be positive (or at least significantly better than they are presently), and must be legal according to environmental protection laws. The information in this article answers some of these qualifications, but not all. According to Schrag, costs are estimated to be about 1% of GDP, which is a fairly substantial amount of money. In regards to the science, the article briefly explains the chemical science associated with injecting the CO2 into the sediment and allowing it to slowly release/dilute into the ocean. As mentioned in the reading, the environmental impacts of the slow diffusion of CO2 in the water allow it to be drastically diluted and remain at safe levels for marine ecosystems. In addition, there is predicted to be enough capacity to hold thousand of years of U.S. carbon emissions. The final point, perhaps one of the major hindrances as of now, was not mentioned at all in the reading, likely because laws and rules can often be changed if more information is discovered. I am not entirely sure of all of the environmental protection laws that exist, so I wonder if an idea like sea-bed sequestration of CO2 would be allowed under such laws. I think if the answer is “yes” to that final point, then the method of injecting emissions into the floor of the ocean sounds like a feasible plan for diminishing the carbon problem.

Jones Veith

Schrag's comments about Kilimanjaro in the Back to the Future article highlight an interesting point about climate change in general. Specifically, he mentions the debate about whether climate change has caused glacial retreat at Kilimanjaro. I think we come to the crux of Schrag's point here in casual discussions about climate change. The article Schrag mentions discusses whether or not the glacial retreat is merely a coincidence. As Schrag goes on to say, this is really beyond the point of a coincidence. Through just two classes here at W&L and despite having family that are skeptical about climate change, it seems obvious to me that the problem at hand is human induced. I think this is seen in the example about the heat wave in France. To be honest, I had to google this -- I had never heard of it. The most important point to consider in the heat wave in France was not how hot it was -- it gets that hot in other places around the globe -- but that it was so extremely out of the ordinary that hundreds of thousands of people had no idea how to adequately prepare themselves. Further, extreme whether like this is happening much faster than we've anticipated -- Schrag isn't worrying about the next Ice Age. The problem then becomes how to slow it. When I think about nuclear power in the Shaw article, I one hundred percent agree with him (Schrag). The world is scared of nuclear power. When I think about nuclear power only four things really come to mind: Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, George Bush, and Homer Simpson. Our aversion to nuclear power is not unlike our general aversion to investing in renewable energy forms like wind or solar power. We are averse to change -- we don't want to do away with our old systems. Ironically, this aversion is what is going to make us see the most change in the future.

Rainsford Reel

Jonathan Shaw's article concerning our use of power and potential solutions going forward I found to be very enlightening. I cannot say that I know much about how nuclear power is generated (never been much of a science guy) so his inclusion of images and then the section on the ability to scale nuclear energy was largely beneficial to me. However I want to key in on a separate argument he sets forth. Shaw states that a quantitative approach will lead to the solution. That is to say if we set a goal of reducing pollution to a certain level, we will generate larger benefits than if we focus solely on one alternative energy source. Using his graph on page 43 as a guide, we can see that expanding one alternative energy source would help,but if we seek to reduce emissions and other harmful aspects to a set level through the expansion of multiple alternative sources the benefits would increase.
Pacala and Socolow expound on this idea of a "Stabilization Triangle"with multiple sources each constituting a wedge of this triangle.They argue that we already posses the technology to achieve this sort of triangle. I would argue that even though we may possess the technology and methods to create wedges in this triangle, continuing to expand would allow sort of bigger wedges to be formed at which point we as society can then focus on which wedges create the most benefit with the least costs.

Cole Wilbur

I found the Harvard magazine article “The Power Problem” to be incredibly interesting. This article flips the script and talks about dealing with our coal problem head on instead of seeking out new energy sources as alternatives. It brings up an important issue of dealing with our own negative externalities of coal use in exchange for ridding ourselves of an unquenchable need for foreign energy sources. Many are exclaiming the need to find a new innovate way to fuel our lofty energy demands, but few have resorted to simply developing ways to deal with our old energy harvesting methods instead. Shrag's idea of taking the CO2 and dumping it offshore sounds promising. It is an answer in a time when most are simply spouting the need to reduce “in some manner". Though I am not sure it is the right answer because of potential high costs and the chances of it polluting our water systems- I think that his mindset is one that is innovative in a new way and interesting to consider (especially because it gives us more independence in being able to rely more solely on our own energy resources.) It is, also, an alternative to the hidden costs that nuclear power presents. At face value, nuclear power sounds like an effective alternative to coal, but if examined more closely the negatives of its use arise rather quickly. Even if society is willing to take on the extra cost (that is substantial) of using nuclear power rather than coal, the problem concerning safety still persists. I find it hard to believe that families will be forthcoming to more nuclear facilities because, while it reduces our dependence on coal, it increases targets for terrorists in an age that seems to be revolving around- "when will the next terrorist attack be”.

Amanda Meador

All three articles contain a common theme of climate change: that it is a global problem in need of a global solution. It is the idea that we must mutually agree to mutually coerce ourselves into making legitimate changes or be prepared to pay the price of lack of changing—mitigation or adaption. A driven home point in ‘Fueling Our Future’ is that radical changes made by the United States are not enough to make a global impact. China and India need to be a part of the conversation and solution. This reminds me of point that Barry Lopez makes in “The Future of Nature.” What responsibilities in terms of climate emissions do the developed world have in comparison to the developing world? Europe and the US have the benefit of already going through the transition to developed nations much on the reliance of fossil fuels and mainly coal in their respective industrial revolutions. How are we to say to India and China that they cannot do the same? Yes, there is information now about climate change that was not available during the western industrial revolution but, to what degree of hypocrisy is can we endure to save the planet.

Courtney Freudenthal

In "Back to the Future" Daniel Schrag hits on an important and unsettling point about climate change policy. He spoke about how one article released from the Pentagon essentially convinced some politicians in Washington about the real threat of climate change. The decades of scientific evidence meant nothing compared to one document from the Pentagon. Though the document swayed in favor of the scientific evidence, it is worrisome to see how even when a whole community of experts agree on a fact, one political entity like the Pentagon has more sway with Washington and Americans at large.

Schrag also addresses the concern that it might take a climate change induced natural disaster or series of disasters to really convince any policy maker to change our practices. Here we see an aspect of the problem between mitigation and adaptation costs. It might be necessary for us to face a huge adaptation cost so that we acknowledge the need for mitigation. Yet if we wait too long, we might not get the chance to mitigate meaningfully, and still get the huge adaptation costs.

Robert Lance

For Fueling our Future, I thought it was interesting how power storage technology was never mentioned. It is possible that this paper undermined the need for dispatchable power from renewable sources, as much of the advancements in solar and wind (and drilling technologies for natural gas) didn't take off for a few years after this. If we were able to create economically efficient utility-scale power storage facilities for wind and solar generation, therefore making them dispatchable rather than intermittent power sources, wouldn't that be ideal? The emissions-free nuclear generation sounds nice, the concerns are obviously warranted. Furthermore, nuclear plants have not been able to to compete with lower cost generation, and have generally been closing as of recent (nuclear capacity hasn't changed much at all since the late 1980s).

I also agree with John's post. This is a shot in the dark for me, but carbon sequestration as a mid-term solution doesn't sit right. I feel there would undoubtedly be some unaccounted for effects in the long term regarding this process, whether land-based or deep water injection. Of course I have no actual proof allowing me to say otherwise, but I (likely naively) feel that a lot of the environmental issues we face now were considered solutions to some other problem in the past.

Jalen Twine

In response to another student’s post and the Fueling Our Future piece in Harvard Magazine, I was equally interested in why coal has not been replaced by nuclear energy or at least utilized less in favor of nuclear energy, but I found it problematic to insinuate that the choice is as easy as taking one for the other. The concerns over national and international security having to do with nuclear energy are very real and should not be taken likely. Although nuclear plants take care of our carbon problems the risks associated with trying to completely trade them in for all of carbon sources for electricity have very high risks. The article touches on some of these issues that increase risk like terrorism and accidents like Chernobyl. Just increasing nuclear plants and energy in a 1 for 1 swap in terms of energy provided by coal will not solve all our problems. While I do think working to improve, utilize, and then regulate nuclear energy should be a goal, I think it is only a smaller piece of the puzzle and not the answer. The article conveys this sentiment in the last sentence of the nuclear energy section, “Nuclear power should not be regarded as an alternative to cleaner energy fuels or biomass or windmills. We are going to need everything – and the over time we will see how the economics sort out” The political side of nuclear energy although cumbersome, is very vital to the health of the planet in the short-term as well as long term.

Will Edmonds

In Harvard Magazine’s “Fueling our Future,” I was most surprised to read about the concerns surrounding nuclear energy. Aside from the rather uncompetitive price of nuclear power relative to coal and natural gas, one of the main challenges outlined in the article was weapons proliferation. According to John Holdren, breaking the energy/terrorism link is even more important for the success of the nuclear energy industry than solving the waste storage problem. I had always assumed that safety and waste storage were above and beyond the biggest obstacles of nuclear energy production, but evidently, this is not the case. Given the high level of conflict in today’s world, I do not foresee an increase in nuclear energy production, especially outside of the US. In my mind, the only chance for the survival of the nuclear energy industry is the complete elimination of all security risks surrounding nuclear fuels and waste.

Tommy Concklin

All three of these articles discuss (fairly obviously) how climate change is a global problem that needs to be faced globally. One country slowing down their CO2 emissions while the rest of the world continues to pollute will have a minute effect on the ultimate outcome. Schrag caught my eye the most when he discussed a scenario where the US has significant cuts and it ultimately had a small effect on CO2 levels in the atmosphere. While this is true, what was most astounding to me was the time when his speech was given. He stated that one goal would be to get rid of high polluting automobiles in 10 years; which would be 2014. He was giving this talk in 2004 with significant evidence of the damage we have already caused the planet. In addition, he states that China and other developing countries would be the biggest problems in cutting back on emissions. The US has made some strides in cutting back, yet now China is a country trying to lead the way in forms of sustainable energy. It is crazy to me that we have had such conclusive evidence for so long, and still, in some cases decline the reality of climate change. The country, as a whole, has had the opportunity to lead the world by creating a concrete plan to reduce emissions and has largely failed.

James Willey

“Back to the Future” by Daniel Schrag seems to be the hot topic here, and rightfully so. Palm trees in Wyoming is quite the image. However, this illustrates what is in my opinion one of the fundamental flaws in the approach to communicating global climate change to broad, non-scientific audiences. 56 million years ago, the globe itself was fundamentally different. The Himalayas were just being built, Central America was hundreds of miles from touching South America, and the young Rocky Mountains were ocean front property. The weather patterns in this “Wyoming” were undoubtedly different – global climate aside. None of this is to say Schrag is at all wrong, in fact I completely agree with his appeal to the past to understand this “experiment” we’re running (after all the Geology Department’s motto is “not unmindful of the past”). But using extreme examples stretches the connection to our current situation, and that distracts from what we do know by making people fear what we don’t know. To this point, the Pacala and Socolow piece makes a good point: we have the technology to meet greenhouse gas reduction goals. This approach is encouraging – even with some inherently dramatic imagery – because it’s a call to act rather than a call for concern. If the focus shifts from identifying and quantifying unknown unknowns, that effort can go towards informing the powers that be that steps in the right direction can start now.
James Willey

Chris Shelby

The "Back to the Future" lecture allows us to gain perspective on the climate issue as a global one. It's easy to set targets and policies for carbon emissions in the United States, but as we have harped on in class, the fate of the rest of the world rests on India and China's shoulders. This "grand experiment" that we're performing with the planet could lead to millions of deaths, many coming in the poorest areas of the world, but what have we really done to set a precedent for sustainable energy? This talk was given in 2004, and we still cannot say that we are setting a good example for countries like China and India. In all of my classes where climate change and sustainable energy are discussed, we always look at targets. With each passing year, we grow closer to these target dates for emissions, yet it seems like we need some sort of major global shock to the status quo for energy usage if the next decade or two are crucial for limiting carbon's presence in the atmosphere. The United States and other developed countries have to lead the way here and influence the rest of the world, but the most important point here is that no matter what the U.S. does, this is a global problem. Schrag's final sentence is key for policy decisions, when he says, "The cost is going to be paid in human lives, and so the economic coldhearted analysis of the cost needs to be balanced a little bit by some sense of global equity."

Elise George

I also read Jonathan Shaw’s “Fueling Our Future.” It brought up the fact that although we have been facing threats of potential water and food scarcity from climate change, that sea level rising resonates the most with people. It was terrifying to observe the map of the estimated water coverage of Southern Florida within the next 100 years. To mitigate these effects, the article brought up the controversial topic of nuclear power. While it doesn’t emit CO2 to produce energy, most people oppose it because of its dangerous risks, such as effects from nuclear waste and the threat of terrorist attacks. But the author tries to emphasize that we have no choice but to use every possible alternate energy source to make a difference. Ultimately, we are a miniscule contributors of CO2 compared to other countries. However, to stop these drastic results from climate change and to protect our wellbeing, we must make these efforts. We simply have no choice any more as we bear the consequences of climate change.

Justin Pedersen

As I read “Fueling Our Future,” I was drawn in by the extreme climatic projections and presentation of coal gasification. When I initially read that Schrag intended on designing mitigation processes that cap atmospheric carbon concentrations at 550 ppm, I thought it was a typo. After reading various articles and watching documentaries concerning climate change, I always viewed a carbon level exceeding 400 ppm as excessive, and I never considered the potential of experiencing Eocentric conditions. After realizing that this was not a typo, I began to consider what a 550 ppm world would look like, applying my limited knowledge of the interconnectivity of climate and ecology. Although such climatic conditions would only spur marginal temperature increases, distributions of various plants and animals would inevitably change, thus indirectly threatening even the landlocked populations safe from the ramifications of impending transgression. Such alterations in biota location would entail extensive economic shifts. For example, the modern agricultural system would be uprooted, as temperate crops would fail in tropic conditions. With the eradication of corn, wheat, and other essential crops from their current growing zones, farmers would be devastated, and US import and export relations would drastically transform. Additionally, trout and other cold water fish populations would soon be annihilated, thereby introducing significant economic, recreational, and cultural losses. While I have only provided a limited number of example, this 150 ppm increase in atmospheric carbon and the subsequent temperature increases would drastically alter current market, political, and social systems.

Additionally, I was intrigued how the article presented coal gasification as an ideal solution to proliferating atmospheric carbon concentrations. With the exception of extensive capital expenditures, the article primarily praises this energy provision process, for it enables clean utilization of the world’s immense coal reserves. However, while the article claims that gasification proves to be a climate-conscientious energy endeavor, I have a hard time understanding how the deposition of millions of tons of CO2 is absent of environmental ramifications. Even though this CO2 would be buried deep into the earth’s oceanic crust, through prevalent processes such as outgassing, this CO2 would eventually seep out into the world’s oceans. With this inevitable influx of initially buried CO2, processes such as massive algal blooms and local eutrophication may emerge, thus affecting ocean productivity. Before substantial investments in coal gasification plants are further pursued, energy firms should thoroughly consider this potential externality.

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